Following a tense NATO Summit over burden sharing and the failure of the G7 to agree on a climate change statement, Merkel has declared Europe “can no longer rely on allies” after Trump and Brexit.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” Angela Merkel told an election rally in Munich. It’s being hailed as the EU finally showing its assertiveness. Merkel is making it a priority to get her relationship right with the new French President Emmanuel Macron. If she does the French/German engine of the EU will be back on.
It is a good sign that the EU may finally be getting the drive it needs to force through the change that must happen if it is to deal its many challenges: the stagnating Eurozone, debt-ridden Greece, the refugee crisis, climate change and terrorists striking across the EU. However, while the EU has its own in-house problems to do deal with, Merkel is wrong to discount allies that Europe must work with if it is to solve its problems.
Merkel and the EU have always preached that we have common problems that need common solutions. EU leaders shouldn’t forget that many of the common problems they have are common to their non-EU (or soon to be non-EU) allies, and they must be part of the solution.
Britain’s determination to tackle terrorism is even stronger after the abhorrent attack on its young people in Manchester. Britain’s top class intelligence services and experience dealing with terrorism is vital to the EU’s security, and sharing information with the EU is vital to ours. Europe fails in its fight against terrorism by failing to share intelligence. Rarely does an attack happen without at least one country having information or watching the terrorist. Britain is an ally against terrorism that Europe needs and can count on.
On climate change, Britain leads in pushing the world to set better and more challenging targets. In the tough fought Paris Agreement, we were an important ally in ensuring the deal was reached. After we leave the European Union, the 27 will need a new country to take over the role Britain has played in ensuring we tackle our emissions after our critical role in establishing and reforming the Emissions Trading Scheme. Britain and the EU must also continue to work on tackling air pollution which doesn’t see the channel as an obstacle. These are common challenges on which Britain can be relied on, and that can only be solved with cooperation between us and the EU.
Britain is also a more reliable ally on defence than most of the EU is. As a country, we spend two per cent of GDP on defence meeting the NATO targets, committed forces to strengthing the EU’s eastern flank against Russian aggression and are always willing to defend our allies. Europe is under greater and greater threat after Russia’s land grab in Ukraine, which has made Poland and the Baltic States uneasy. The EU-27 need to work together to improve their own defence, and there is some defence cooperation in the EU could be helpful (so long as it doesn’t undermine NATO). However, they can’t forget that they need their allies outside of the EU, and they can rely on us.
As we leave the European Union, the EU-27 must and will go on without us. It is a good sign that Merkel is signalling that the EU is becoming more decisive and perhaps sparking an engine to solve its many problems. Merkel can’t forget however that although we are leaving, there are many areas we must and will continue to work together on. On terrorism, climate change and defence, Britain is and will prove to be the EU’s most reliable ally, despite Merkel’s doubts.
Written by James Clark